Wimbledon BookFest Returns

Most of you will be familiar with the much loved Wimbledon BookFest which is now in its thirteenth year!  If you have or had children in Merton primary schools you may even had the pleasure of accompanying them on a school trip to the Festival tent on the Wimbledon Common… I for once have very fond memories of listening to Wimbledon author Michelle Paver and seeing my kids’ delight in getting their books signed by her.  Another year saw us all listening in awe to the adventures recounted by Steve Backshall from Deadly 60, feeling relieved to sit in The Big Tent in Wimbledon and nowhere near the frightening creatures so vividly described…

Read on to learn some key facts about the festival and its history, the headliners for this year and, most importantly, where to find the events schedule and how to get your tickets!

Wimbledon BookFest is a not-for-profit organisation which runs a year round Word Up Education Programme borough-wide in Merton, across all socio-economic groups with local schools which aims to harness the power of reading, writing and literature to improve the educational opportunities of children and young people in South London.  Over 70 schools, from the state, independent and SEN sectors in Merton and neighbouring boroughs take part in the Festival every year.  Its principal sponsor is The University of Roehampton.

The Festival was founded in 2006 by Fiona Razvi and Tony Kane, who were both immersed in the arts community working for local magazine Time & Leisure, and first held in 2007. They founded the charity Wimbledon Arts to run the organisation.  The Festival’s aim is to develop the role of arts and culture in the area and it works with local partners including community groups, schools and businesses to do this.  It embraces all art forms in its programming and is keen to showcase and nurture new local talent as well as bringing in external talent. The festival aims to build on its growing reputation as a festival that embraces the arts in all its forms.

The Festival has 100+ events for the public and schools on the festival site on Wimbledon Common. Previous participating authors include Salman Rushdie, Kate Atkinson, Graham Norton, Adam Kay, Yottam Ottolenghi, Michael Palin, Nick Clegg, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Shami Chakrabarti, Antony Gormley, William Boyd, Kate Mosse, Jeremy Paxman, Claire Balding, Michael Morpurgo, Maggie O’Farrell, Shane Warne, Afua Hirsch, Vince Cable, Josh Widdicombe, Michael Rosen, Alexander McCall-Smith, Paul Merton and Ian McEwan.

The Festival returns from 3 to 13 October with a vibrant programme of talks, debates and workshops showcasing literary names, politics, current affairs, sport, film, music, children’s events, comedy and much more in the Big Tent on Wimbledon Common.

The Festival is delighted to welcome Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and novelists John Lancaster, Michelle Paver, Tracy Chevalier, Robert Harris, Alexander McCall Smith and Man Booker Prize winner Ben Okri. There will be a rare chance to hear from international bestseller Patricia Cornwell. Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat will discuss her new novel The Strawberry Thief at BookFest’s Opening Event held at the Merton Art Space at Wimbledon Library.

A packed Children’s programme features Harry Hill introducing his latest children’s novel Matt Millz Stands Up!, former SAS soldier turned author Chris Ryan, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet author/illustrator team behind the hugely successful Supertato series. Dame Jacqueline Wilson talks about her highly anticipated sequel to the Tracy Beaker series We are the Beaker Girls. Mr Gum creator Andy Stanton presents his new book The Paninis of Pompeii whilst BookFest is thrilled to welcome festival favourite Chris Riddell once again. Enter the magical world of the circus with Nell Gifford, founder of Gifford’s Circus, whilst Blue Peter’s Konnie Huq introduces her hilarious collection of classic fairy tales reinvented for the twentieth century.

As ever, BookFest’s programme features a lively politics and current affairs strand with speakers including the BBC’s Kamal Ahmed, political commentator Paul Mason and LBC’s James O’Brien. Former Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler offers his take on Brexit and current Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis provides a fascinating expose on how the news is made. Lord David Owen, former Labour MP and Foreign Secretary, discusses his book Hubris: The road to Donald Trump.

History lovers will welcome Ed Hussain, Tom Holland, Sir Max Hasting and William Dalrymple who tells the astonishing story of the East India Company. Katie Hickman recounts the forgotten stories of the intrepid women who journeyed to India centuries ago, the subject of her latest book She Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen.

BookFest is keen to share perspectives on issues that affect us today and one of the key strands of this year’s festival is climate activism. Sustainability expert Mike Berners Lee will offer practical advice on how we can avoid climate calamity, drawn from his book ‘There is No Planet B.’ Fashion journalists Dana Thomas and Lucy Siegle investigate the damage wrought by fast fashion and the grassroots high-tech global movement fighting to reform it. BookFest has partnered with the independent climate change magazine It’s Freezing in LA to host a series of events including an interview with Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, Curator of the upcoming Royal Academy exhibition Eco-Visionaries, a film screening and an evening of poetry.

BookFest celebrates the wonders of the natural world with Blue Planet cameraman Gavin Thurston. Author, photographer and TV presenter Levison Wood reveals the hidden mysteries of Arabia, whilst Mariella Frostrup presents ‘Wild Women,’ an anthology of daring and pioneering female adventurers and explorers.

Staying closer to home, BBC London presenter Robert Elms discusses his book London Made Us with Samira Ahmed whilst Wimbledon resident and ASOS Founder Nick Robertson reveals the fascinating story behind the fashion phenomenon.

Sports fans won’t want to miss Sir Alastair Cook, England’s all-time most successful batsman in conversation with John Inverdale and Brian Moore hosting rugby stars Mark Evans and Ben Ryan.

TV personality and maths enthusiast Johnny Ball tells the history of the colourful personalities and remarkable discoveries that shaped mathematics and sets the audience some challenging maths questions.

The Festival is delighted to welcome Sir Trevor McDonald on the publication of his autobiography ‘An Improbable Life.’

The Festival’s closing event will be Nadiya Hussain discussing her heartfelt memoir Finding My Voice.

This year’s BookFest sees an extended series of workshops, themed walks on Wimbledon Common, film screenings, a supper club, gin tasting and a comedy night headlined by Adam Kay and Bridget Christie.

Set on Wimbledon Common, close to Wimbledon Village, a specially commissioned Big Tent seating up to 550, an intimate William Morris themed marquee and The Robert Graves Gallery provide the focal point for the Festival.

I am sure you will agree that there is something for everyone in this year’s jam packed festival programme – the main challenge being which event(s) to pick!

To help you decide, and for more information and tickets, head over to: www.wimbledonbookfest.org.

A final word: The Wimblecomm Team is always keen to hear from people who would like to see their blog article published on our website.  If you are attending any of the Wimbledon BookFest events this year and would like to send us your event review blog, please submit your copy by email to: MAILTO:general@wimbledoncommunity.org.  Note: Wimblecomm reserves the right to not publish and/or edit submitted content before publication.

By Susanne Ollig, Community Development Executive, Wimblecomm


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